Legendary Swine Researcher Stanley Curtis Dies at Age 68

Stanley Evan Curtis, 68, of Urbana, IL, died Sunday, April 25 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana; he was a retired professor in the University of Illinois (U of I) Department of Animal Sciences

April 28, 2010

4 Min Read
Legendary Swine Researcher Stanley Curtis Dies at Age 68

Stanley Evan Curtis, 68, of Urbana, IL, died Sunday, April 25 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana; he was a retired professor in the University of Illinois (U of I) Department of Animal Sciences.

Born on a small farm at Plymouth, IN, Curtis distinguished himself as a student receiving valedictorian honors and achieving status as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1964 from Purdue University, followed by a master’s degree and PhD in animal sciences and environmental physiology.

He became an assistant professor in dairy husbandry at the University of Missouri in 1968, before moving to the U of I in 1970. There he rose through the professional ranks and became known internationally for his acclaimed research, teaching and outreach programs in farm-animal environmental physiology, behavior and care.

In 1990, he was named the head of Penn State’s Department of Dairy and Animal Science. He returned to the U of I in 1998.

Curtis focused on research to address practical problems in livestock, but focused mainly on pigs, his first love. His behavior-based approaches produced improved animal equipment and facility designs.

In all, he generated more than 135 peer-reviewed journal articles, 150 scientific meeting papers and 45 book chapters.

His knowledge led to features in The Wall Street Journal, The (London) Times, LIFE, Scientific American and National Geographic. He also appeared on CBC, ABC, Animal Planet, BBC, Children’s Television Workshop and CNN.

Curtis authored the first comprehensive textbook on animal-environmental management. For more than 40 years, he formulated science-based responses to organized criticism of farm animal well-being, writing and addressing audiences around the world on the topic, while also serving on countless university, state, national and international committees.

A legacy in the classroom, his teachings left a lasting impact on students in courses focusing on animal environmental needs, management, growth and energetics. He advised more than 120 undergraduate students, 35 master’s students and 16 PhD students, many of whom are recognized globally as leaders in the field of animal environmental management.

James Pettigrew, U of I professor of animal sciences, admired Curtis when he was a PhD student, even though Curtis was outside of his discipline of nutrition.

“Dr. Curtis was arguably the most accomplished communicator the field of animal science has ever known,” Pettigrew says. “His facility with words, in both written and oral forms, was both impressive and powerful. He essentially created the specialty of environmental physiology within the field of animal science. By force of intellect and personality, he made people in both industry and academia acutely aware of environmental influences on animals.”

Curtis’ work was timely and crucial in the development of modern confinement production practices for the pig. This achievement resulted in his identification as one of the 50 most influential people in the U.S. swine industry by National Hog Farmer magazine in 2005, attests Neal Merchen, head of the department of animal sciences at the U of I.

“More than any other animal scientist in the United States, Stan Curtis took the fundamentals of the science of environmental physiology and studied the ways that they applied to the housing, management and well-being of farm animals,” Merchen says. “His work represents the best kind of example of the expectations of a public land-grant university – it extended basic science into application in ways that improved agricultural practices.”

His work earned him many awards and honors, including the National Pork Producers Council Distinguished Service Award, National Pork Producers Council Innovation in Applied Swine Research Award, AAALAC Bennett J. Cohen Award, Distinguished Purdue Agricultural Alumnus, U of I Funk Award, CAST Charles A. Black Award, American Association of Swine Practitioners Dunne Memorial Lecturer, ASAS Animal Management Award, U of I Outstanding Instructor in Agriculture and ASAS Midwestern Young Researcher Award.

Curtis was a member and leader in many organizations including the American Society of Animal Science, American Dairy Science Association, The Poultry Science Association, American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, International Society of Applied Ethology, International Society of Biometeorology, Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta, FarmHouse and Sigma Xi.

Curtis is survived by his former wife, Carol, who resides in Champaign, IL, his mother, one son, two daughters, four grandchildren, three brothers and one sister.

Memorial services will be held at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, IL.

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